Five years ago ConnectUs Therapy’s Katie Shannon spoke to the Williston high school cross country team about suicide prevention, birthing the Not Today campaign. Each year since, more students have participated in the event by wearing its t-shirts and walking together in honor those who have died by suicide.
Through generous donors and the Williston High School, ConnectUS Foundation is bringing Kevin Hines to speak at this year’s Not Today event at the high school. Hines advocates for living mentally well after he survived a suicide attempt by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
On Sept. 20, Williston High School students will get to hear Hines’ story as he presents at two different times during the school day. In the evening, students will receive a free t-shirt and join in on the Not Today walk, led by Hines, at the high school track — an 11-minute walk in support of those who have died by suicide; in the U.S., someone dies by suicide every 11 minutes. Students who participate will also receive a free treat from volunteer vendors of Deja Brew, Jer Bears Sno Shack or Soda Shack.
“This is our first open-to-the-community event. We are pretty honored that we were able to raise the funds through many generous donors,” Shannon said. “And the support of Williston Public School 7 in allowing us to bring this within the school walls and having funded a big portion of this as well. They, too, are invested in the mental wellness of their youth and the adolescents. Their support of this event demonstrates their care and concern for the mental health needs of students.”
Hines will present his “Be Here Tomorrow” story at the high school auditorium, following the walk, at 6:30 p.m. This is free to the public with a free-will donation of which funds will go to ConnectUs Foundation’s continuation of support groups that are available to the community free of charge.
In 2000, Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in an attempt to take his own life. Just two years prior, he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 19 years of age. He is one of only 36 people to survive the fall and tells of the powerful story of what happened as he was waiting in the water to be rescued by the Coast Guard.
Hines now spreads the message of hope and the art of living mentally well through speaking events throughout the world. He has written the memoir “Cracked Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After A Suicide Attempt” and produced the documentary “Suicide, the Ripple Effect.”
Now in it’s fifth year, the Not Today campaign is targeted to adolescents to spread educational information on suicide prevention. Each student receives a t-shirt, that is different each year, and has suicide prevention support information.
“They are basically little walking advocacy campaigns, walking resources,” Shannon said. “Each student receives a t-shirt for them to wear in the community for when someone can see it and say, ‘There is a resource, there is help.’ It’s hope, basically.”
Hines’ Be Here Tomorrow presentation is open to all ages of the community. Parental discretion is recommended for younger children, but Shannon encourages those in fifth grade and above to come, as she says that is when these topics start to surface.
“It’s important to acknowledge, talk about and give tools for when these thoughts happen or when your friends are having these thoughts” Shannon said. “We are not only trying to say that there is help and hope, but we’re also trying to give teens a way to help instead of trying to keep that secret.”
Not Today has encouraged four steps for anyone to take when needing mental help:
Connect: talk to your friends
Confirm: if they have thoughts of dying or suicide
Protect: don’t keep it a secret
Act: tell an adult
Calling or texting 988, the national suicide and crisis lifeline, will connect to local resources and local crisis centers.
“Come out and support the youth, the Williston Coyotes and the surrounding communities who are coming,” Shannon said. “And their young selves who are starting to become advocates for others.”
More information about mental health, therapy and free community support groups can be found by visiting connectustherapy.org